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Mosquito-borne viruses can easily be prevented

Aug 18, 2015
Summer is an ideal time to develop healthy physical activity habits through hiking, cycling or simply heading to a park with the children. It is also important, though, to take necessary precautions against related hazards such as excessive sun and heat exposure, and to vector-borne diseases.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles GardnerSummer is an ideal time to develop healthy physical activity habits through hiking, cycling or simply heading to a park with the children. It is also important, though, to take necessary precautions against related hazards such as excessive sun and heat exposure, and to vector-borne diseases. 

As in the past, a rise in summer temperatures has resulted in the emergence of West Nile virus (WNv) positive mosquito pools across southern Ontario. Simcoe Muskoka has recently seen its first positive mosquito pool in the Alliston area. At this point in the summer, it is not unexpected to see more mosquitoes testing positive for the virus. 

Positive WNv activity reminds us about the importance of taking action to protect ourselves and our families against being bitten by mosquitoes. 

Most people infected with WNv will either have no symptoms or only suffer from mild flu-like symptoms including fever, headache and fatigue. Less often, in severe cases, WNv can affect the central nervous system and cause illness, including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and, rarely, death. The risk of more severe symptoms increases for those who are over 50, or have underlying conditions that have weakened their immune systems. 

To reduce your exposure to mosquitoes and being bitten, simple steps can be taken. 

  •  Avoid being outdoors at dusk or dawn when mosquitoes are most active. 
  • If outdoors during times of peak activity, consider wearing light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants. 
  •  Use an insect repellent containing DEET. Prior to using an insect repellent, make sure it is registered in Canada, read the label and follow directions carefully. If using a spray repellent, be sure to use the product in a well-ventilated area.  Apply only to exposed skin and/or clothing—never underneath clothing. 
  • Install, replace or repair window screens. 
  •  Eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites on your property where water can pool and become stagnant. Remove water from wheelbarrows, empty flower pots and pool covers. 

WNv has been established in our area since 2002 and viral activity can be unpredictable every year. Because of this, the health unit continues to routinely monitor local mosquitoes to gather information on the type and number of mosquitoes present in our area as well as whether or not those mosquitoes are infected with WNv.  Although there are approximately 50 types of mosquitoes found in Ontario, only a few are known to spread WNv to humans. 

To learn more about physical activity, or WNv and how to protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases, call Your Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday or visit www.simcoemuskokahealth.org. You can also follow the latest from the health unit on Twitter and Facebook.

Dr. Gardner is Simcoe Muskoka’s Medical Officer of Health.

Current and archived MOH Columns are stored here. Earlier MOH Columns are maintained in an archive and can be retrieved by contacting the Health Unit during business hours.
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